Texas Senate on Track to Become More Extreme and Conservative

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Sometimes, a good shirt is all you need to out Texan your opponent, as done by Bob Hall

Back in March, Republican Sen. John Carona was ousted by his more extreme challenger, Don Huffines. Because no Democratic candidate filed in Senate District 16, Don Huffines is assumed to be a Senator in waiting, which would push the Senate further to the right. In Senate District 4, incumbent Tommy Williams resigned and Reps. Brandon Creighton and Steve Toth will face off in a runoff special election later this month. If Toth is elected, this will be another seat in the Senate pushed to the far right. And last month, Sen. Robert Duncan announced he would be leaving the Senate to take over as the Chancellor of Texas Tech; while the field is still to develop to replace him, the odds are good his successor will be more extreme.

With this precedent over the last year, it should come as no surprise that last Tuesday's runoff elections saw the Republican Party attempt to push the Texas Senate further to the right with their nominees. In Senate District 10, the open seat currently held by Wendy Davis, the GOP decided an extreme social-issues activist would be their best standard bearer and in Senate District 2 a 14 year incumbent was ousted by a retired TEA Party activist. Democrats did not field a candidate for Senate District 2, meaning Bob Hall is likely headed to the Senate with Don Huffines.

Read exactly what happened in Senate Districts 2 and 10 after the jump.In Senate District 2, it was the “battle of the Bobs.” Incumbent Bob Deuell was challenged by TEA Party activist and veteran Bob Hall. Sen. Deuell was narrowly forced into a runoff in March when he received 48.49% of the vote. Bob Hall earned 38.81% while open carry activist Mark Thompson gathered 12.68%. Many assumed Sen. Deuell had been caught off guard and would easily dispatch Hall in the runoff, but outside conservative interest groups sensed Deuell's vulnerability and flocked to Hall's aid, ready to score another TEA Party victory. The outside conservative group, Empower Texans, skewered Deuell as being unacceptable due to his unwillingness to speak out more forcefully against gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and conspiracy theories regarding the UN and guns.

“This past fall, the Texas Conservative Coalition asked members of the legislature to sign onto three letters encouraging U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as Attorney General Greg Abbott, to support standard conservative policy positions relevant to their respective offices. These legislative officials were given three opportunities to sign each of the three respective letters.

The first letter was a pledge to recognize traditional marriage between one man and one woman as being the only recognizable legal definition.  Although a fairly mainstream Republican position, Deuell's signature is absent.

The second letter  asked Senators Cornyn and Cruz to fight to defund the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.  Of course, Senator Deuell did not sign on.  As the de facto representative of the Texas Medical Association in the Senate, he not only voted for the Democrat-authored enabling legislation for the Obamacare navigators (SB 1795, SJ 1100), but he also proposed his own legislation for the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare; trying to use the widely unpopular, overreaching federal legislation for the benefit of himself and his physician contributors.

The third letter was in support of another fairly mainstream Republican policy position.  This time the letter asked the Attorney General to do all he can to oppose the U.N. Small Arms Treaty.  Of course, since Deuell's definition of being a pro-Second Amendment legislator simply means not actively opposing guns, he neglected to sign it.  Initially, at least.

As one can imagine, his neglect towards opposing U.N. encroachment on the Second Amendment had more than a few people upset in SD 2.  One such concerned citizen, Ray Myers, brought the issue up at a Hopkins County Republican Club breakfast on November 16th with one of Deuell's senior staffers.  Despite being given three opportunities per letter to add his name to the list, the official response given was that Deuell's inaction was due to “not checking his email.”  Apathy towards conservative values, as exemplified by his record, is a more likely explanation.

Empower Texans and other third party groups spent heavily to support Bob Hall and to oust Sen. Deuell. Bob Hall, the new Republican nominee, has a website that reads as a random sampling of TEA Party language and extreme positions. The first issue he lists as a priority it to put religion back in public government; he then goes on to list state and national sovereignty, immigration and abortion as his concerns. What does Bob Hall not mention as his concerns? Education, water use, and transportation; issues that are core concerns of everyday Texans.

In Tarrant County's Senate District 10, Republicans are working to grow their majority by pulling Wendy Davis' open seat back into the red column. Senate District 10 leans Republican but is the closest Senate District in the state to having no party preference in the heavily gerrymandered Texas. In the runoff, republicans had a choice between their conservative 2012 nominee, former State Rep. Mark Shelton, and first time candidate, grassroots anti-abortion activist Konni Burton. The Republicans chose to go with the new face who has made her bones by dividing people over a controversial issue rather than someone who has had some history working to build coalitions and bringing people together.

On her website, Burton rips the legislature for undoing 2010's radical education cuts, pledges to keep state funds from going towards women's health care, and to oppose the expansion of Medicaid in Texas. For a competitive district, Burton is clearly more concerned with dividing people and only representing some people in Tarrant County rather than working to bring people together and making sure all of her constituents are heard in Austin.

Burton will face Democrat Libby Willis as well as a Green and Libertarian in November.

You can follow me on Twitter at @trowaman.


About Author

Joseph Vogas

Joseph was raised in Friendswood, Texas in North Galveston County. He went on to graduate from the University of North Texas with a degree in Political Science. After working for multiple campaigns, Joseph was able to work in the 83rd legislature in Austin in 2013. While retired from professional campaign work, Joseph enjoys sharing his knowledge of campaign data how to win elections in naturally unfriendly turf with others. Joseph is an avid archer and enjoys all things geek including Star Wars and DC Comics.

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